BAGHA JATIN- an epitome of Iron Muscles and Nerves of Steel

– Swapan Mukherjee

The year was 1906. In Kayagram village, Kushthia subdivision, Nadia district, Bengal province of British India, Jatin and his young cousin were walking by the side of the river. He had recently come back to his village from Calcutta to rejuvenate himself in the nature’s lap of his childhood abode. Lush green bushes and natural bamboo forest all around decorated the spring months of Bengal. The hypnotic coo coo of the doves accented the mid-day tranquillity. Jatin was sincerely trying to submerge his consciousness in nature for his inner peace but alas! Not for a moment could he divert his thoughts from the vicious onslaught of the British Government on the fate of Bengal Residency by partition.

Reverberations of the 1857 Indian freedom struggle against British rule led the Viceroy of India Lord Curzon on 16thOctober 1905 to partition Bengal into east and west based on Muslim and Hindu dominated areas. Protests and mourning throughout Bengal were being observed for the unity of both communities. Jatin, a 26-year vibrant young man, had already been fully involved in revolutionary activities in Bengal and had actively gotten initiated into the nation-building and patriotism call for the youth of India by the famous 19th century Hindu monk and philosopher, Swami Vivekananda. Seeing Jatin totally lost in thought, his cousin drew attention to the man-eater tiger that was the common talk of the village. The big cat made a massive ruckus in five villages in the vicinity.

Just then, as if to justify the common English idiom, “Speak of the devil and he doth appear”, a huge full-size Royal Bengal tiger flew up in the air from the shrubby bushes and pounced on Jatin’s cousin. With an agile swerve, Jatin flung aside his cousin and attacked the massive tiger barehanded with just a small Nepali dagger (Khukri) in his possession.  It was a gruelling fight between the huge tiger and the fiery young man with iron muscles and nerves of steel. He remembered his mother’s advice as a child when he had been running away from a chasing dog: “Face every eventuality in life with all your might boldly with conviction”. The fight went on for quite some time until the tiger had mauled him severely and chewed his knees. In extreme exhaustion, he recollected the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita on which he had been meditating regularly in Swami Vivekananda’s Ashram. The sloka overshadowed his sinking condition and gave him strength as he remembered Shree Krishna’s words – 

सत्त्वानुरूपा सर्वस्य श्रद्धा भवति भारत |
श्रद्धामयोऽयं पुरुषो यो यच्छ्रद्ध: स एव स: ||17.3||

“The faith of all humans conforms to the nature of their mind. All people possess faith, and whatever the nature of their faith, that is verily what they are”.

Jatin gathered all his strength for a last bout before fainting and started hammering the tiger on its throat and neck till it succumbed to its injuries. The famous surgeon Dr. S P Sarbadhikari treated and cured him Completely of the wounds that were poisoned by tiger’s nails. Impressed by Jatin’s exemplary heroism, Dr. Sarbadhikari published an article about Jatin in the English press. The Government of Bengal awarded him a silver shield with the scene of him killing the tiger engraved on it.

This incident in the year 1906 was the rebirth of Jatindra Nath Mukherjee as the famous BAGHA JATIN, whose bravery, extreme organising strength, and relentless struggle including an armed rebellion against the British for complete independence of India were considered a precursor to the subsequent armed struggle by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Sometime before the advent of World War I on the 28th July 1914, Bagha Jatin sensed the prime opportune moment to initiate an armed revolution against the British. He contacted the German Crown Prince for the delivery of a huge contracted firearms from Germany.

Jatindra Nath Mukherjee was born to Umeshchandra and Sharatshashi Mukherjee on the 7th of December, 1879, in Kayagram village in Kushthia – now in Bangladesh. Jatin was only five years old when he lost his father, a highly respected person for strength of character and for his knowledge in Vaidik studies in Sadhuhati village, Jhenaidah district. Sharatshashi, talented, well-read and well abreast with all social and political affairs of that time, came back to her father’s home Kayagram with Jatin and her daughter Binodebala.  Jatin’s maternal lineage also had a strong social, cultural and political presence in history. Sharatshashi’s brother, Basanta Kumar Chattopadhyay was a reputed attorney and the Noble Laureate Rabindranath Tagore was one of his clients. Basanta’s son, Haripada Chattopadhyay, was the famous revolutionary and politician who was one of the founders of nationalist social welfare association, Savita Mission in 1910 at Comilla – now in Bangladesh with the primary objective of empowering the rural population through self-sufficiency and inspiring Swadeshi Movement. Gandhiji renamed this organization as Abhay Ashram in 1921.

In 1895, Jatin passed the entrance examination from his Anglo-vernacular School in Krishnanagar, Nadia district, and joined Calcutta Central College to study in Fine Arts. He was simultaneously taking lessons in typing and stenography and later got a government job.  During this time, Swami Vivekananda’s call for the youth participation in patriotism through services for the nation and its fellow citizens enormously inspired Jatin. He started visiting him regularly. Swamiji’s guidance and fruitful advice for assimilating dedicated strong youth for nation building were Jatin’s lifelong treasure throughout. Bhagavat Gita, yoga, meditation and intense physical exercises were his resources that drafted his revolutionary free India notion, politically, economically and spiritually. Swami Vivekananda’s disciple, Sister Nivedita, was proactively working for the national cause, organizing public services, relief camps all around to uplift citizens, inculcating self-sufficiency and self-pride in them. Jatin got completely devoted and participated with the Indian group that assisted Sister Nivedita in her endeavour of inspiring Swadeshi Movement against British rule in India.  He left without completing graduation due to his disinterest in colonial education.

In 1903, the pre-dawn of Bengal’s Agni-Yug, a momentous meeting at Yogendra Vidyabhushan’s place was a landmark event in Jatin’s initiation to militant nationalism.  Yogendra Vidyabhushan, a relative of Jatin, was a scholar in Sanskrit and author of many biographies in Bengali language that awakened fiery patriotic zeal among youths. Here, Jatin first met Sri Aurobindo, who, by then, had already gained a reputation as the most prominent British Indian revolutionary.  He instantly became his disciple. In no time, Aurobindo made Jatin his right hand because of his dedication, daunting courage, exceptional leadership and martyrdom spirit for greater cause. Aurobindo delegated Jatin to form a secret-society called ‘Jugantar’ to train dedicated youths for revolution against British rule. Jatin, as chief commander, expanded the ‘Jugantar’ further to units across India, Southeast Asia, Europe and also in America. It had literally impacted British rule all over.

Anushilan Samity, a Bengali Indian group, was simultaneously very active, encouraging militant revolutionary activities including bomb making and eliminating British officials and their Indian collaborators. Jatin was one of the founder members of Anushilan Samity, which was formed in 1902 by Satish Chandra Bose as a body-building society.  It was led by the nationalists Sri Aurobindo and his brother, Barindra Kumar Ghosh.

In 1908, Jatin was implicated along with 49 others in the famous Alipore Bomb Case, where a conspiracy was hatched to kill the Chief Presidency Magistrate, D.H. Kingford of Muzaffarpur. The trial was held at Alipore Sessions Court, Calcutta for a full year between May 1908 and May 1909. Jatin got acquitted due to insufficient evidence. Many were sentenced to imprisonment and Barindra Kumar Ghosh was exiled for life. In no time, Jatin was arrested again with 46 Bengali Indian nationalists of the Anushilan Samity in connection with the ‘Howrah-Shibpur Conspiracy’ case, in the wake of the murder of Inspector Shamsul Alam on 24 January 1910 in Calcutta. Majority were acquitted but Jatin and Narendra Nath Bhattacharya, commonly known as M. N. Roy, were sentenced to one year in jail. Here in jail, Jatin became close with Naren and together, they planned their future action of importing arms from Germany for a full-fledged revolution against the British.

In April 1915, Naren left for Germany as emissary to organize the arms deal and came back in time. German shiploads of arms consignment were planned to be delivered in India near Balasore, Orissa. However, destiny was not with Bagha Jatin, and the entire meticulously planned arms shipment project got leaked to the British intelligence by none other than the fully responsible German representative, who had turned into a double agent and had sold the information. In addition, British Army also got the plan of German consignment delivery to the east coast of India by paying money to Mr. EV Voska, a Czech spy. Thus, the ill-fated ship, Queen Maverick could not reach the planned destination in India.

The British police, headed by the then-police commissioner of Bengal, Charles Tegart rushed to Balasore with the British army. They started joining clues one after the other, including a small handwritten note in which ‘Kaptipada’ was mentioned, and identified the location where Bagha Jatin was hiding to receive the consignment from nearby Balasore sea coast. By then, Bagha Jatin had received information about the let-down of his plan and police incursions. He, along with his four associates, hurriedly left Kaptipada before the arrival of the police force. For the next two days, all five of them walked day and night through the tough terrains of Orissa, hoodwinking the British police and army. They rested from time to time in jungles and remote isolated fields. British forces, in desperation, entrusted additional teams to surround Jatin and his friends from all sides of Mayurbhanj district of Orissa.

On the ill-fated day in History, the 9th of September 1915, Bagha Jatin and his four associates, Chittapriya Roy Choudhury, Manoranjan Sengupta, Niren Dasgupta and Jotish Pal decided to play no further hide and seek and take on the British force face to face with only German-made Mauser pistols. They selected a strategic spot by the bank of Buribalam River. Against a huge British force equipped with sophisticated rifles, the valiant heroes fought for almost two hours. There were huge losses in police force and the first loss of Chittapriya Roy Choudhury, who died instantly, followed by Bagha Jatin, who was sent to Balasore hospital severely injured. Manoranjan Sengupta and Niren Dasgupta were captured and executed in Balasore jail and Jotish Pal was sent to Andaman jail. 

The 35-year-old strong young man was excruciating in pain on the Balasore hospital bed. He could see his end approaching due to rifle bullets in his thigh and abdomen. With all humility, Charles Tegart affectionately offered him a glass of water. The young man scornfully refused to accept the glass; he said, “I cannot accept water to quench my thirst from a person whose blood was my cherished dream”.

Struck by the heroism, Charles Augustus Tegart lamented that although he had all admiration for Bagha Jatin, he had to do his duties. Tegart once told his colleagues:

“If Bagha Jatin was an Englishman, then the English people would have built his statue next to Nelson’s at Trafalgar Square”.

Thus, ended a golden chapter of Indian History on the 10th of September 1915 to reaffirm that long back, during World War I, under the leadership of Bagha Jatin, an armed insurrection was attempted against the British rule for PURNA SWARAJ.

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